Construction waste is a major problem in the United States and around the world. But you already know that. You’re here, after all. Still, it’s not something talked about very much and we’re here to change that! In this blog post, we’ll look at the latest statistics about construction waste to help you better understand the issue and how it affects our community.
We know what you’re thinking—who cares about construction waste statistics? But trust us: these are the kinds of things you should know. For example, how many million tons of construction and demolition waste does America produce every single year? Or how much % of all U.S. municipal solid waste does this type of waste account for?
Also, these construction waste statistics are important for contractors, builders, and real estate developers because they can help you understand how much waste is generated at your job sites and what types of waste are most prevalent. These statistics can also be helpful in planning for future job sites so that you can minimize risks associated with waste disposal.
Construction Waste Statistics (Top Highlights)
- Over 650 million tons of building material waste are generated around the world each year.
- Concrete accounts for 67.5% of the total construction and demolition waste generated in the United States.
- Roads and bridges generate 275.3 million tons of construction and demolition waste in the United States.
- The construction and demolition waste recycling industry’s worth is estimated to be over $7.4 billion.
- It’s estimated that 70% of construction and demolition waste in the United States is recycled.
- Over 67.8 million tons of non-hazardous construction and demolition waste is generated in the United Kingdom per year.
- Over 850 million tons of waste are generated by construction and demolition activities in the European Union.
General Construction Waste Statistics
1. Cities worldwide generate 650 million tons of building material waste a year.
Cities around the world produce 1.3 billion tons of solid waste a year, and this figure is expected to reach 2.2 billion by 2025. Considering half of the solid waste is building material, by 2025, cities around the world are expected to generate 1.1 billion tons of construction waste every year.
The construction industry is responsible for generating a large amount of waste because it involves a lot of materials and equipment that are eventually disposed of after use. C&D waste includes things like concrete, bricks, concrete blocks, and wood. Construction activities also generate large amounts of rubble and other wastes such as roofing materials and insulation boards.
(Transparency Market Research)
2. At 67.5%, concrete accounts for the largest portion of construction and demolition waste in the United States.
The latest available data places asphalt concrete second, accounting for 17.8% of the total construction and demolition waste in the United States, followed by wood products at 6.8%.
Drywall and plasters as well as asphalt shingles rank fourth, accounting for 2.5% each, followed by brick and clay tile at 2%. Steel accounts for less than 1% of the total construction and demolition waste in the United States.
3. Only about 5.5% of the total construction and demolition waste in the United States is generated during construction.
The latest available data reveals that the United States generated 600.3 million tons of construction and demolition waste in 2018. Out of those, when observing the total construction and demolition waste by activity, only 33 million tons were produced during construction, while the rest was demolition debris.
4. At over 73%, concrete accounts for the largest portion of construction waste in the United States.
When observing construction waste in the United States by material, the latest available data reveals that out of the 33 million tons generated in 2018, 24.2 million were concrete. Drywall and plasters followed with 3.9 million tons, surpassing wood products that accounted for 3.4 million tons of the total construction waste. Asphalt shingles accounted for 1.2 million tons of construction waste, while brick and clay tile followed with 0.3 million.
5. At 275.3 million tons, roads and bridges are the most prominent source of construction and demolition waste.
The latest available data on construction and demolition waste by source in the United States reveals concrete and asphalt concrete as the most wasted materials in the construction and demolition of roads and bridges, generating respective 168.3 million and 107 million tons of waste in 2018.
Buildings accounted for the second-biggest generator of construction and demolition waste, producing 188.8 million tons of it. Out of those, concrete contributed the most material-wise (102 million tons). Wood products ranked second, generating 39.5 million tons of construction and demolition waste, followed by drywall and plasters as well as asphalt shingles, generating respective 15.2 million and 15.1 million tons of construction and demolition debris. Brick and clay tile generated 12.3 million tons, while 4.7 million tons of steel waste was generated during building construction and demolition.
Construction and demolition of other structures generated 136.2 million tons of waste in 2018. At 134.9 million tons, concrete accounted for almost all of it, while another 1.3 million tons were wood products.
Construction Waste Recycling Statistics
6. The construction and demolition waste recycling industry is estimated to be worth over $7.4 billion.
Besides its economic benefits, the latest available data estimates that recycling construction and demolition waste prevents the creation of 4,300 acres of landfills filled to a depth of 50 feet. The energy savings are estimated to be over 85 million barrels of oil.
7. 70% of construction and demolition waste in the United States is presumed to be recycled.
A white paper by the Construction and Demolition Recycling Association (CDRA) estimates that in 2012, about 480 million tons of construction and demolition debris was generated in the United States.
The white paper, titled The Benefits of Construction and Demolition Materials Recycling in the United States, also reveals a breakdown of the components within the construction and demolition waste stream.
Out of the total construction and demolition waste, there were:
- 100 million tons of mixed construction and demolition debris with a recycling rate of 35%;
- 310 million tons of bulk aggregate (mostly concrete) with a recycling rate of 85%; and
- 70 million tons of reclaimed asphalt pavements with a recycling rate of 99%.
(Bureau of Transportation Statistics)
8. When demolishing buildings, 98% of steel is recycled back into new products.
Structural steel produced in the United States contains 93% recycled steel scrap. Considering structural steel is being recycled with no loss of physical properties, it can therefore be considered multi-recyclable.
This way, the steel industry has reduced overall carbon emissions by 36% and increased the water recycling rate of steel production to 95% since 1990.
(American Institute of Steel Construction)
9. Construction and demolition waste recycling is estimated to generate nearly $10 billion in wages in the United States alone.
In 2020, the United States Environmental Protection Agency estimated that, based on the latest available data issued in 2012, the recycling of construction and demolition debris created nearly 10,000 jobs. The Recycling Economic Information Report also revealed that construction and demolition debris recycling generated $1 billion in tax revenue in the United States.
10. 52% of construction and demolition waste is sent to aggregate.
As per the latest available data on construction and demolition waste management by destination, 24% of the total waste generated in the United States in 2018 went to landfills, while 22% was sent to manufactured products.
Another 1% went to fuel, while compost and mulch, as well as soil amendment, each accounted for less than 1% of construction and demolition management destinations.
11. A total of 456.6 million tons of construction and demolition waste is repurposed for the next use.
The latest available data on construction and demolition waste management reveals that, at 334 million tons, concrete accounted for the majority of that. Asphalt concrete came in second with 102.1 million tons, followed by wood at 11.2 million tons.
3.6 million tons of metal waste generated during construction and demolition was repurposed for next use, while gypsum drywall and asphalt shingles each accounted for 2.1 million tons. Another 1.5 million tons of brick and clay tile construction and demolition waste was repurposed for the next use.
12. At 313.1 million tons, the majority of construction and demolition waste repurposed for next use went into aggregate.
When observing construction and demolition waste by material that went into aggregate, the majority of it (or 301.2 million tons) was concrete. Asphalt concrete accounted for 10.3 million tons, followed by brick and clay tile at 1.5 million tons. A further 0.1 million tons of asphalt shingles generated during construction and demolition went into aggregate.
13. 131.6 million tons of construction and demolition waste repurposed for next use went into manufactured products.
Material-wise, the majority of it (or 91.8 million tons) was asphalt concrete. Concrete followed with 32.8 million tons, while 3.6 million tons of metal construction and demolition waste went into manufactured products.
Asphalt shingles, wood, and gypsum drywall accounted for respective 2 million, 1.2 million, and 0.2 million tons of metal construction and demolition waste that went into manufactured products.
14. 7.5 million tons of construction and demolition waste was repurposed as fuel.
As per the latest available data on construction and demolition waste management by material and destination, almost all of the waste that was repurposed as fuel was wood, while a mere 0.02 million tons was asphalt shingles.
Another 2.5 million tons of construction and demolition waste went into compost and mulch, all of which was wood, while a further 1.9 million tons was repurposed as soil amendment, all of which was gypsum drywall.
15. 143.8 million tons of construction and demolition waste goes into landfills.
As per the latest available data on construction and demolition waste management, concrete accounted for the majority of it, at 71.2 million tons. Wood ranked second at 29.6 million tons, followed by gypsum drywall and asphalt concrete at 13.2 million and 13 million tons, respectively.
10.8 million tons of brick and clay tile waste generated during construction and demolition went into landfill, and the same applies to 4.9 million tons of asphalt concrete and 1.1 million tons of metal.
Construction Waste Statistics UK
16. The United Kingdom generates over 67.8 million tons of non-hazardous construction and demolition waste.
The latest available data reveals that, of those, 62.6 million tons are recovered, pointing to a 92.3% recovery rate. Another fact is that construction, demolition, and excavation (including dredging) account for 62% of the total waste generation in the United Kingdom.
17. Construction and demolition activities generate over 850 million tons of waste in the European Union.
The construction sector is the most prominent producer of waste in the European Union, accounting for 35% of the total waste generated.
Out of the total waste generated, soil and dredging spoil account for 522 million tons, meaning the EU generates 336 million tons of construction and demolition waste only. Meanwhile, the latest available data reveals that the recovery rate of construction and demolition waste in the European Union stands at 88%.
(Loughborough University, Eurostat)
Construction Waste Statistics Canada
18. The construction industry in Canada produces about 9 million tons of C&D waste on average each year.
Construction and Demolition (C&D) waste is one of the most significant sources of solid waste in Canada. It accounts for about one-third of the total municipal solid waste produced by Canada, with an estimated annual generation of 9 million tons per year.
That’s a lot of waste!
The C&D waste comes from two places: firstly, from building sites where it’s generated by construction crews; secondly, from demolition sites where old buildings and infrastructure are torn down. It includes all materials from building sites that are no longer needed, such as leftover wood, concrete, bricks, asphalt, and more.
19. 27% of the solid waste generated by the Canadian construction industry ends up in landfills.
For one thing, most of this waste is made up of materials that are not harmful to the environment—paper, wood, metal, and concrete. What’s more, these materials can be recycled or reused with minimal effort on the part of industry and government alike.
This statistic highlights how important it is for Canadians to recycle their construction and demolition waste. Recycling can drastically reduce the amount of landfill space used as well as improve air quality by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from landfilling C&D waste.
Construction Waste Statistics Australia
20. C&D waste comprises 44% of all waste generated in Australia.
Almost half of all waste produced in Australia in 2018-19 came from construction and demolition activities, which generated 27 million tonnes —an increase of 61% since 2006-07.
It’s important to note that these numbers are based on what is disposed of at landfills—not what gets recycled or reused. But even if we include recycling and reuse, it’s clear that there are still a lot of opportunities to reduce our impact on the environment by reducing the amount of waste that ends up in landfills.
Waste generated by the C&D sector is often a mixture of materials that can be recycled or reused, but only if they are separated at the source. Recycling mixed waste is expensive, time-consuming, and inefficient, so separating it at the source is critical for reducing overall waste disposal costs.
The construction industry is an essential part of our economy and society, but it also creates a lot of waste. That’s why we need to take a deeper look at how these materials are managed and disposed of, so we can make sure they’re being handled responsibly and sustainably.
We hope this collection has been helpful in providing you with information on the current state of construction waste management practices. As always, feel free to share this with anyone who might benefit from it! If you have any questions or suggestions regarding this topic, please feel free to reach out anytime!
Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you next time!